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People will ignore your ads if at all possible.

So make it hard for them to do that.

That's the challenge with digital video in particular. And an unspoken advantage that advertisers could ignore with traditional TV advertising.

And with the many different types of digital is a mystery what exactly one should do. I hope to clear some of this mystery up.

This is not a technical video format post that focuses on the mechanisms of delivery and relates to things like codecs and whether or not a video implementation is VAST 3.0 compatible.

I am going to focus on what should be more important and relevant to an advertiser: How the userexperiences your video ad - and what you need to do about it.

First, why does digital video matter? Look at the chart below:

Younger demographics are watching a lot of video content online. Older demographics tend to use more traditional TV. But we know how this will go, right? Clearly, the future means advertisers are going to have to put a lot more effort into digital video than they have in the past. And digital video is not the same as traditional, broadcast/cable television viewing experiences.

This is not academic. There is a big difference in engagement and interactions with video content based on the device and context of how that video is watched.


The simplest way to describe the differences between a traditional television viewing experience and those video experiences in digital media (whether it be a video platform like YouTube or social media or something in between) is to think about the physical and mental orientation to the device you are viewing.


When we watch traditional TV, you can picture a couch, a remote nearby, and relaxed, semi-passive experience watching whatever is on screen.


Digital video is typically different: we are likely more task-oriented on our devices (even if that task is mere entertainment at your social media news feed) and our hands are on our screens or our keyboards and mouse: we are ready to click or scroll imminently.


Traditional TV programing is a linear experience: You start the content and its interrupted by an ad, then your content resumes. Its linear and disruptive.

To some extent, you have to get through the ads to see the rest of the program. Its the price paid for 'free' broadcast TV.

For the most part, this pattern was taken for granted by most. Although the use of DVR's was a way to get around it, the majority of broadcast/TV viewing was based on this experience.


Advertising in digital video may not only be skippable (after five seconds), but is far easier to click or scroll away from the ad. Part of the reason is because you are engaged, another may be that digital video content tends to be shorter and not typically (yet) the experience we choose to binge-watch our favorite programs or sporting events.

So you have a choice: Skip the ad; choose something else (the 'cost' of spending time to watch an ad is too high, so you find something else to read or view).

Compared to the TV viewing experience, its nonlinear and requires a certain amount of voluntary engagement from the viewer to watch the ad.

And that is what should be important to advertisers when they created digital video ads. Advertisers should put more emphasis on entertaining or engaging the audience and less on broadcasting 'mere' information.

The classic car ad where prices are shown on the screen in an attempt to reach a handful of people in the market for a car has little relevance for most viewers. And if there is nothing else but irrelevant information (e.g. Sale prices on cars you are not going to buy) there is zero reason for a viewer to care about anything you are saying.

So they skip it.

This is a hard habit for advertisers to break -especially advertisers who disparage or fear the lack of return on things like 'branding'. But when viewers have a choice, it means you need to do more than broadcast data, you need to make it interest or relevant to them (or both).


One indicator of how well you may be doing in terms of making ads that work well in digital media is looking at how much of your video is watched. Admittedly, this is not a perfect metric for many reasons, but it is telling.

In our analysis of 78 different video ads that ran on digital media, we noticed that ads with the worst performance tend to be those that were created for television and followed the classic paradigms of linear-viewing experiences. On the other hand, ads created specifically for digital media (and ignored or addressed "tv ad" tropes) performed much better. The range is significant: 2% average watched versus 72% - the vast majority of the lower watch rates being TV-designed video ads.

This data includes averages not accounting for some outliers such as video length, target audience, frequency, etc.. but generally these results conform what most of us know intuitively. This analysis helps to support a different approach for video content creation and strategy.

The opportunity and the challenges of digital advertising compound themselves: Facebook ads run without sound (so far, that is changing in 2017 to some extent), requiring more engagement from the visuals; skippable ads on YouTube seem ideal because their cost-per-view model theoretically provides a better ROI, but you might miss a branding opportunity by not better structuring ads to be more interesting in the first five seconds.

Much more exciting for marketers is the fact that digital video allows for more precise ad content delivery to target audiences far beyond even the most eclectic television/cable viewing audience (see my post on Programmatic for more on this).

It's a lot to think about. It's also incredibly dynamic: I'm pretty sure that by the time most people see this post, a lot of the above may require updating!

What won't be obsolete will be the importance of having an open mind and looking at all media options with a fresh and innovative perspective.


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